Texas AFT Prevails–Court Ruling Upholding Ban on Minimum Grades Will Not Be Appealed by School Districts

Texas AFT has received notification that there will be no appeal by school districts from a June court decision upholding the state ban on local minimum-grade policies. Under these local policies, teachers have been required to give students grades no lower than some district-mandated minimum, even if the students have refused to do any assignments or have failed to attend class.

Eleven Texas school districts, led by Fort Bend ISD, had sought a court order nullifying the effect of the new law, written by Sen. Jane Nelson, Republican of Lewisville. Texas AFT was the only teacher organization that intervened in the case to defend the law from attack. Texas AFT member Mary Roberts, a veteran teacher in Humble ISD, testified that under her district’s policy a teacher would be compelled to give inaccurate,  unearned grades to students who earned less than a 50 average for an entire grading period.

As affirmed by the decision of the district judge in this case, which the school districts now have decided not to challenge, the ban on minimum grades applies not only to grades on individual assignments but also to cumulative grades for entire grading periods. After the court ruled in June, Humble ISD announced a policy change to comply with the law. Now the decision of the 11 plaintiff districts not to pursue an appeal of the judge’s ruling means that all the other plaintiffs will need to do the same. Texas AFT will be on watch to make sure that they follow through.

Texas AFT President Linda Bridges today welcomed the districts’ decision not to appeal. “These school districts have made the right move. We believe that any shred of doubt about the meaning of this law has been eliminated and that all school districts must, without further delay, comply fully with the legislative intent to outlaw minimum grades. All Texas school districts should implement this law as intended, with no more unearned minimum grades but with reasonable opportunities for students to redo assignments or exams in order to earn a passing grade.”

Bridges continued: “As our member Mary Roberts testified, the practice of awarding minimum grades regardless of a student’s actual work is wrong in principle, because it devalues real effort and achievement. There are much better ways to help students get back on track academically, without awarding them academic credit they have not earned.”

Texas AFT general counsel Martha Owen, in her summation of the issues before the court in June, said the legislature’s aim clearly was to put a stop to artificial grade inflation, and this legislative objective can only be achieved with honest cumulative grades. Minimum-grade policies promote irresponsible behavior, undermine teachers’ authority to assess students’ progress, cover up failure, and simply are not in the best interests of students or schools.